The UK Government’s continued easing of lockdown measures has meant that agencies are thinking about what returning to the workplace will look like.
Agency owners are really being put through their paces right now. Not only have they had to furnish their staff with the right equipment and infrastructure to work from home, but now they are having to think about how to create a Covid-secure workplace, too.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown
There is no doubt that making sure that people are not only actually safe, but feel safe is a big responsibility. However, if done in the right way, it can also be an opportunity for an agency to change its culture and the way it works for the better.
The pandemic has forced companies across the UK to become truly digitised and has fundamentally changed the way teams communicate and share information.
Necessity often finds a way of helping to streamline and refine processes that would have otherwise been left firmly in the ‘but this is the way we have always done it’ category.
So, agencies can use this as an opportunity to reset and reload. There has never been a better time to experiment with the agency environment and figure out what works best for you and your team.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of six things to consider when reopening your agency.
6 things to consider when reopening your agency
#1 Understand your legal obligations
As agency owners you already know that you have a duty of care to keep your staff safe. It’s important that you seek professional advice if you are unsure of your responsibilities.
Here are some helpful resources to point you in the right direction and help you begin to understand what the journey back to the office will need to look like…
- HM Government: Coronavirus Guidance – for people who run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
- acas: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice
- HM Government: Guide to Flexible Working
How you communicate with your team is going to be a huge factor in how successful your office reopening will be.
If possible, before you finalise your Covid-19 reopening action plan, consult your team. Ask for their views about what you have in mind so that they have the opportunity to share any concerns and give you feedback. It’s going to be important that you update them regularly and that they feel comfortable being open and honest with you about what’s working and what isn’t.
Once your plan is finalised it is crucial that you clearly set out what your staff can expect from you, and equally, what you expect from them in return. Ensure the information about their rights and responsibilities is displayed in a highly visible way. Let’s face it, as an agency you won’t be short of designers who can help create engaging posters to communicate the new rules and procedures for safe working.
Making the information you provide simple and clear will help reassure your team that you’re looking out for their safety and give them the confidence to return to the office.
#3 Team buy-in
It needs to be clear from that outset that everyone in the team has not only rights in the post lockdown work environment, but responsibilities too.
The only way to make a truly Covid-secure workplace is for safety and social distancing to become ingrained into the very fabric of your agency’s work culture. Your team needs to be encouraged to look after each other and understand that what you are putting in place is not just a set of working principles to be adhered to, but a moral imperative that is enshrined in the very ethos of your agency.
One of the most effective ways of doing this will be to set a good example and follow your own rules. This is a time where you really need to lead from the front. If the team thinks that it is one rule for you and another rule for them, you will lose their goodwill and support, which could result in the rules not being followed and the office being unsafe.
Lockdown has brought about a myriad of challenges for workers. From childcare and home-schooling to setting up remote working, your team has had a lot of adapting to do in these last few months.
By now, working from home will have become like second nature to most of your team, but it’s good to be mindful of the fact that everyone will have had very different experiences. Some will have enjoyed the freedom of working from home, while others won’t be able to wait to get back to the office.
So, it’s important that you talk to each member of your team individually about the impact that returning to the office will have on them and their individual home circumstances.
Try to be understanding of everyone’s individual needs. This is a good opportunity to test out a more structured remote working policy and allow flexible working hours for those who need it. What you learn during this time could help you create a different way of working for your agency and bring about some really positive and productive changes for your team.
After all, a happy team is a productive team.
#5 Managing employee anxiety
For some members of your team, coming back to work won’t phase them at all, but others will feel nervous and even anxious at the prospect.
Here are some useful resources to guide you on how to manage your workplace’s mental health in the wake of Covid-19.
It’s important to bear in mind that some members of your team may be struggling irrespective of work. Open and honest communication will be the key to understanding their needs and helping them make the transition back to the office.
#6 Your clients
Take this opportunity to get in contact with your clients and let them know that your agency is reopening. But, be clear that although the work is continuing as usual, it isn’t business as usual when it comes to safety at the office.
Update your website, social channels and even your email footers with information on what safety measures you have put in place for your team and for your customers. But, be mindful that while some clients may be more than happy to come to the office for meetings, others will prefer to keep communication purely digital for now.
Agency life, but not as we know it
One thing’s for sure, the ‘new normal’ won’t be a one size fits all. But, if you get this right, your ‘new normal’ can be a positive experience and can even set the groundwork for a new work culture that will bond you as a team and help your agency thrive.